New Covenant Giving

Giving and Finances

16 May

New Testament Giving in Organic Church

And one of the best parts of doing house church is we get to hold onto all our money!!!

– An enthused visitor in Colorado Springs

I could not help but laugh a little as my sister in Christ blurted out the above proclamation in the wild-eyed joy that she would soon be free from the building campaigns, guilt tithing, budgets, and paying for programs and staff salaries that she had grown accustomed to at institutional churches throughout her life. Indeed, she had been carrying a burden for years and was glad to let it go. Yes it is true, the organic churches I know do not push tithing, do not have staff to support, nor do they have buildings or programs. But is this person’s statement the last word on New Testament giving and finances? Now the risk of discussing this teaching, or any teaching, is that it could be construed as a “should,” or a doctrine. Instead, what we want to do is look at the New Testament and look at ways the body experienced life in the area of giving and finances. Therefore, this is not going to be a comprehensive discussion on how to spend money or invest, how to plan for retirement or your kids’ educations, or even looking at everything the Bible has to say about money. Rather, we are going to focus on passages where Churches in the New Testament dealt with giving, and look at the joy churches today can share in as well. As we will see, financial giving in organic church life is motivated more by joy than obeying the Old Testament standard, is done as a corporate expression, and addresses the priorities of helping the poor and sending experienced workers to start new Churches.

Do you teach tithing?” read an email from a person interested in our organic church. When I replied no, I never heard from him again. Now I can’t blame this person for thinking tithing is biblical; the Old Testament actually outlined three tithes that meant a good Israelite would have given away at least 23 and 1/3 percent of their income not to mention any free will offerings on top of this.  Something to keep in mind, is that Israel was a theocracy where taxes and tithing were one and the same; money collected supported the temple ministry as well as the government and social welfare.  Furthermore, we must remember that Jesus is the teleos, literally the fulfillment of the law (Romans 10:4). When Jesus lived his life, He fulfilled all righteousness on our behalf. In this sense, Jesus fulfills our tithe; in fact, He is our tithe! Continuing to tithe is only biblical, therefore, in the same sense that offering animal sacrifices, requiring circumcision, or keeping Jewish holidays is biblical. Just as these were shadows of the blessings to come in Christ, tithing was just a shadow of what New Testament giving can be. Thus, using the Old Testament law as a guide for giving runs the risk of trying to please God with law, when the only thing He is pleased with is Christ. Therefore, we must look to the New Testament for something more related to what it means to walk in the Spirit as it relates to giving.

2nd Corinthians 9:6-11 states, “Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. As it is written:

They have freely scattered their gifts to the poor;
their righteousness endures forever.

Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.

In this passage, Paul addresses what to give, what the giver receives in return, and who to give money to. How much should New Testament believers give? Paul makes clear that this amount is between you and The Lord! In fact, Paul makes clear that it is not a matter of what amount we should give, but rather, what amount are we happy to give! He does remind us though that if we sow sparingly, we will reap sparingly, both in terms of generosity and perhaps even sharing the Gospel. Second, this passage addresses those who give will receive something in return. Now many prosperity gospel preachers love to claim this passage promises financial blessing on those who give a lot (especially to them), and that those who give little will be blessed little. However, Paul is not referring to reaping financially, but reaping in terms of having what they need to abound in every good work and in sharing in the fruit of seeing God’s Kingdom expand. By supplying “sowers,” i.e. workers, God enlarges the givers’ harvest of righteousness in sharing in the results of their work.

Lastly, 2 Cor 9: 9-10 addresses who to give money to. Verse 9 clearly speaks of sharing gifts with the poor, while verse 10 mentions giving to sowers. Sowers are those who sow the Gospel in starting new churches. In fact, if you look through the entire New Testament, the early Church only had 2 financial priorities: sending people to preach the gospel and plant new churches, and helping the poor. Absent is giving for buildings, for a clergy, for programs, or even for kids’ mission trips. In conclusion, we can follow suit by giving an amount out of the heart, out of conversation with the Lord, giving not to receive financial blessing but to share in the fruit of the work, and giving to both the poor and to send others to plant churches in new places.

1 Cor 16: 1-4 states: “Now about the collection for the Lord’s people: Do what I told the Galatian churches to do. On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with your income, saving it up, so that when I come no collections will have to be made. Then, when I arrive, I will give letters of introduction to the men you approve and send them with your gift to Jerusalem. If it seems advisable for me to go also, they will accompany me.

This passage further deals with the freedom of what amount to give, highlighting a New Testament concept of “paying it forward.” To begin, Paul makes clear that this instruction was not just for this church, but for all the churches as the teaching was apparently in use in the Galatian Churches and likely other ones as well. Second, the amount given by each person was in keeping with their income on the first day of the week. The first day of the week was Saturday, so yes, people were giving based on what they saved up, but also on what they expected to make in the week ahead. Most people were paid each day for their work, there was some trust involved that God would provide for them in the week ahead.  There was faith involved in giving.  Last, the Corinthians were “Paying it forward,” in sending a gift to Jerusalem, basically the idea giving a gift not to their own but for the poor in other churches or to send a person on to work in another place.

Acts 4: 32-37 states: “All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had. With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all that there were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned land or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone who had need.

There are two typical reactions to the above passage: One is to marvel, the other is to fear and scowl that living this way in present times is unrealistic. But I want to pose that what motivated believers to care so greatly for one another is that they saw each other as family, God’s family! This was not so much converting Judea to a communist economy as it was sharing with other people not merely as though they were family, but because they were family!

What would happen to poverty if churches behaved like this?  If your child needs something, you provide it, end of story. If your arm is bleeding, you get medical care. So the question is, who is your family? Who is your body? A Church that considers the needs of its members will impact its community in a powerful manner.  We often think we need to give to organizations to give to the poor; why not be a part of a growing organism that defeats poverty in its wake? Why not give to the poor among you, as they did in Jerusalem, or to the poor beyond them as the Corinthians did for the Church in Macedonia (See 2nd Cor 8-9)?

Now I’ll grant you that we live in a very segmented society, that tends to separate the richest folks from working people, and even more the run-down homes from nice homes, and most the homeless from those who have jobs. But imagine a church that bridges these gaps of economic class. Our God can build a church like this! In fact, he already has and will do it again.

Lastly, we would like to point out that in all the cases above, it was the church giving as a corporate act, not individuals acting individually. First, if our money is God’s, and God is best represented by His corporate body, then the corporate giving can represent Christ more fully than we ever can as individuals. While it is not necessarily bad to give individually, the numerous examples of the whole church sending workers and helping the poor inspires us to follow suit.

In conclusion, financial giving in organic church life is motivated more by joy than obeying the Old Testament standard, is done as a corporate expression, and addresses the priorities of helping the poor and sending experienced workers to plant new Churches.   What opportunities do you have to give in helping start churches or helping those in need?  When we join God in this, we share in the joy of God’s work.   We can also keep our eyes out for those struggling among us. We are family to one another; let’s show it with our finances.  Those who are sick, those faced with job loss, people leaving organized ministry, or moving their families to experience organic church life do need help. Let’s not hesitate. How about making our giving a dialogue between ourselves and the living God? Lastly, none of this will work if it does not come from the joy of the heart. None of this discussion will work as a guide or a “should,” but will only work if our hearts are set on God’s heart as we dialogue with Him. We obviously have seen that God’s passion is for His bride the Church, and His heart for the poor is too evident in Scripture to necessitate further proof. So be blessed as you engage in the joy of corporate giving and share in His harvest of righteousness!

Appendix: Scriptures on New Testament Giving

After this, the Lord appointed 70 others, and He sent them ahead of Him in pairs to every town and place where He Himself was about to go. He told them: “The harvest is abundant, but the workers are few. Therefore, pray to the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest. Now go; I’m sending you out like lambs among wolves. Don’t carry a money-bag, traveling bag, or sandals; don’t greet anyone along the road. Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace to this household.’ If a son of peace is there, your peace will rest on him; but if not, it will return to you. Remain in the same house, eating and drinking what they offer, for the worker is worthy of his wages. Don’t be moving from house to house.” Luke 10:1-7

Acts 4: 32 “All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had. With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all that there were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned land or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone who had need.

Acts 11
During this time some prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch. One of them, named Agabus, stood up and through the Spirit predicted that a severe famine would spread over the entire Roman world. (This happened during the reign of Claudius.) The disciples, as each one was able, decided to provide help for the brothers and sisters living in Judea. This they did, sending their gift to the elders by Barnabas and Saul.

The Collection for the Lord’s People

2 Corinthians 8
The Collection for the Lord’s People
And now, brothers and sisters, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. In the midst of a very severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the Lord’s people. And they exceeded our expectations: They gave themselves first of all to the Lord, and then by the will of God also to us. So we urged Titus, just as he had earlier made a beginning, to bring also to completion this act of grace on your part. But since you excel in everything-in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in the love we have kindled in you-see that you also excel in this grace of giving.

I am not commanding you, but I want to test the sincerity of your love by comparing it with the earnestness of others. For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.

And here is my judgment about what is best for you in this matter. Last year you were the first not only to give but also to have the desire to do so. Now finish the work, so that your eager willingness to do it may be matched by your completion of it, according to your means. For if the willingness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what one does not have.

Our desire is not that others might be relieved while you are hard pressed, but that there might be equality. At the present time your plenty will supply what they need, so that in turn their plenty will supply what you need. The goal is equality, as it is written: “The one who gathered much did not have too much, and the one who gathered little did not have too little.

Titus Sent to Receive the Collection

Thanks be to God, who put into the heart of Titus the same concern I have for you. For Titus not only welcomed our appeal, but he is coming to you with much enthusiasm and on his own initiative. And we are sending along with him the brother who is praised by all the churches for his service to the gospel. What is more, he was chosen by the churches to accompany us as we carry the offering, which we administer in order to honor the Lord himself and to show our eagerness to help. We want to avoid any criticism of the way we administer this liberal gift. For we are taking pains to do what is right, not only in the eyes of the Lord but also in the eyes of man.

In addition, we are sending with them our brother who has often proved to us in many ways that he is zealous, and now even more so because of his great confidence in you. As for Titus, he is my partner and co-worker among you; as for our brothers, they are representatives of the churches and an honor to Christ. Therefore show these men the proof of your love and the reason for our pride in you, so that the churches can see it.

2 Corinthians 9
There is no need for me to write to you about this service to the Lord’s people. For I know your eagerness to help, and I have been boasting about it to the Macedonians, telling them that since last year you in Achaia were ready to give; and your enthusiasm has stirred most of them to action. But I am sending the brothers in order that our boasting about you in this matter should not prove hollow, but that you may be ready, as I said you would be. For if any Macedonians come with me and find you unprepared, we-not to say anything about you-would be ashamed of having been so confident. So I thought it necessary to urge the brothers to visit you in advance and finish the arrangements for the generous gift you had promised. Then it will be ready as a generous gift, not as one grudgingly given.

Generosity Encouraged
Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. As it is written:

They have freely scattered their gifts to the poor; their righteousness endures forever.

Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.

This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of the Lord’s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God. Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, others will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ, and for your generosity in sharing with them and with everyone else. And in their prayers for you their hearts will go out to you, because of the surpassing grace God has given you. Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!

The one who is taught the message must share his goods with the teacher.”   Galatians 6:6

Phillipians 4

I rejoiced greatly in the Lord that at last you renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you were concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it. I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.

Yet it was good of you to share in my troubles. Moreover, as you Philippians know, in the early days of your acquaintance with the gospel, when I set out from Macedonia, not one church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving, except you only; for even when I was in Thessalonica, you sent me aid more than once when I was in need. Not that I desire your gifts; what I desire is that more be credited to your account. I have received full payment and have more than enough. I am amply supplied, now that I have received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent. They are a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God. And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.”

“Dear friend, you are faithful in what you are doing for the brothers and sisters, even though they are strangers to you. They have told the church about your love. Please send them on their way in a manner that honors God. It was for the sake of the Name that they went out, receiving no help from the pagans. We ought therefore to show hospitality to such people so that we may work together for the truth.” III John 5-8

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